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BYOD – Bring Your Own Problem?

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, appears to be here to stay. Software company Wrike has published research that suggests the majority of workers in the US use at least one mobile device to get through the day.

This might mean catching up with email on the phone or full-blown data capture on a tablet but it’s a clear trend, assuming the 800-odd people consulted can be taken as a representative sample. It’s arguably not big enough in a country the size of the USA to be a definitive study, but it offers an idea of where the market is going.

The data shows that 43% of people finding their technology essential, while 44% admitted to checking their device more than 20 times a day. A third of respondents used five or more mobile apps to make their business work.

Initially it might appear this is unalloyed good news for the IT department. Stretched budgets can be relaxed a little as capital purchases become less necessary since people would rather use their own IT. There’s every chance they will buy something of a higher specification than a corporate IT budget would be able to run to.

However, there are downsides. The first concerns the management of staff; if they all have their phones and tablets and they’re connected all the time, many managers will assume they’ll be spending at least some of that time on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or any other social network that may emerge and which bears no relation to what they should be doing in their working day.

Monitoring staff might appeal as a solution initially, and thanks to the European Court’s ruling in the Bărbulescu v Romania case it can be argued that there’s a precedent for doing so. This requires management and resources, however, which managers may not feel they can spare; additionally if staff feel they’re being watched there can be an atmosphere of mistrust. One answer is to recruit trustworthy people in the first place, which is easily said but takes no account of existing employees or indeed company culture.

Second, the technical support issues can be a problem. A while ago an NSTech correspondent met with an IT director for a motor company. The organisation had moved to using tablets in its warehouses and its supplier put an upgrade out – and the screen changed. This would not have been an issue for the vast majority of professionals but it turned out not to be compatible with the corporate app, so productivity froze until it was sorted out.

This particular director’s solution was to have an “approved list” of devices from which employees could choose; if they wanted to try to use something else then this was allowed but the technical staff wouldn’t undertake to ensure it worked.

BYOD is a great idea to save money on enterprise IT. At its best it reduces outlay on equipment and training since nobody needs instructions to use their own phone. The support and management implications, however, should never be underestimated.